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Wed Jan 9, 2013, 12:17 PM

What is Joseph Cao's political future?

I saw the nice bio feature for Cao on LPB. I have a fairly good impression of him, as he seems more thoughtful and independent than the usual Republican politician. But what is going on, that he gets a bio-pic? Is this a reward for not running against Caldwell for AG? Is he being groomed for a candidate in some other race? Senate maybe? Can some more knowledgeable person enlighten me?

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Reply What is Joseph Cao's political future? (Original post)
IphengeniaBlumgarten Jan 2013 OP
David in Canada Jan 2013 #1

Response to IphengeniaBlumgarten (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 01:54 PM

1. Not Much Really

I really don't think former Rep. Cao has much of a future. He only won his seat in 2008 because his immediate predecessor, William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson had been caught with over $100,000 of cash in his freezer and voters voted for him in order to be rid of Jefferson. This was similar to what happened in 1994, when Chicagoans voted out Dan Rostenkowski by voting for Michael Patrick Flanagan only to dump Flanagan for Rod Blagojevich in a landslide two years later. (Take about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire!)

Jefferson had only won the Democratic primary due to the clown car effect of his primary challengers dividing the anti-Jefferson vote. Furthermore, despite the law being changed to having actually holding primaries with nominees determined in a general election (previously all candidates were on a single ballot with a run-off between the top two if no one got 50% +1), Hurricane Gustav forced the postponement of the primary to the day of the general election with the general election held in December.

Due to Gustav and holding the general election in December, this led to very low turnout. Combined with disgust with Jefferson's antics, euphoria over Obama's election victory and the fact that Democrats already had a comfortable majority in the House, Jefferson's in-built advantages were negated. Even then, Cao only won with a plurality of the vote. Without the Green Party nominee, it is possible that Jefferson could have eeked out a meagre victory. Of course, due to the unusual circumstances, the usual reality of most would-be Green voters going for the Democrat when forced with a two-party choice can't be taken for granted.

Jefferson has since been sentenced to 18 years in prison for his corruption. Since he was no longer a member of Congress, he could no longer use his seat and the prospect of resigning from it in any plea bargaining. Furthermore, he couldn't use his perch on the Ways and Means committee as a means of intimidating the prosecutors with retribution via denial of funds were he to be acquitted. As a result, the prosecution refused to plea, he went to trial, was convicted and got punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Now, as to Cao. I don't see any viable path to a political career in Louisiana apart from possibly Attorney General should Buddy Caldwell decide to retire. His former district is overwhelmingly Democratic and in all the other, heavily Republican districts, he would never survive a primary due to his first vote in favour of the Affordable Care Act. Granted, he voted against the final bill but he would still be considered a RINO.

Due to that vote, I think any potential return to Congress, or even a stint as a state legislator have been foreclosed. Since he is an attorney and, reputedly, a good one at that, he could parlay that into a win as Attorney General due to the top-two system in place. He might not even want to run again as his wife stated that she didn't like him being in D.C. so often and he never expected to win in the first place.

As for the documentary, I think it was made because he is an interesting person and his path to power, however brief, is quite fascinating. Being the first Vietnamese-American in Congress, defeating an intrenched Democratic incumbent (however flawed) in one of the more Democratic districts in the nation and his journey from his birth in South Vietnam to the halls of Congress is a very unique and compelling story. Say what you wish about Cao, but his background and journey is not that of a typical, run-of-the-mill politician.

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